June 26, 2010

Best Authors You Aren't Reading: Julian F. Thompson

Best Authors You Aren't Reading is an IBWB feature. In it I discuss authors who I don't perceive as being popular, but whom I truly love.

Julian F. Thompson doesn't have a Wikipedia page, though this Answers.com article is a great introduction and intimidates me since I'm trying to write something similar, aside from the biography parts. On LibraryThing.com, his most added book is on 90 shelves; the next book is on a mere 26. (I own both, though neither are on my LibraryThing shelf.) He only recently created a website - the last time I looked for one, it didn't exist. Since 1983, he has written eighteen novels for young adults.

The Grounding of Group 6

His most famous novel, one of his first, and the first I read, is THE GROUNDING OF GROUP SIX. (Check out this awesome article about it on Jezebel.) This is one of the few books I've had to buy more than once. I lent it out and it never returned. I had to buy this when I found it in Half-Price: parents paying someone to off their kids? An exotic premise, yet strangely believable. With a premise like that, an author has a lot to deliver. Thompson did and I immediately went trolling for his books in all the local USBs and libraries. By now I've read all but a very few.

First, you aren't going to like Thompson if you don't enjoy reading about sex at all. Many of his characters have sex; most of them get into sexually embarrassing situations. Second, his books are almost always feature teenagers versus adults. The bad adults are very bad. The books tend to be very cynical about some things, though most of the teen protagonists are optimists (see A BAND OF ANGELS). Third, some parts of the books are very dated. Only two of them came out in the past decade, so it's to be expected.

Here are some of my favorites:

Terry and the Pirates


Girl tries to escape boarding school by stowing away on a boat. Boat is driven by the wrong guy, who goes overboard anyway. Girl gets captured by pirates. Boy might not have gone overboard. Boy has split personality, in fact. Boy and girl fall in love and escape the pirates and their offspring. TERRY AND THE PIRATES shows of Thompson's lighter side, which definitely made it work picking up for me. I like when he tackles issues, but sometimes you want to read a book that's insane, knows it is insane, and just goes with it. Terry is clever, in a street-smart sort of way, and pragmatic, just the sort of personality you need when faced by her adventures.

SIMON PURE (no cover image on Amazon)

Did you like Doogie Howser as a kid? Well, here's another story about a whiz kid in college. Simon Pure is smart, but he sticks out like a sore thumb among the older college students. Again, this one is on the lighter side. My copy has a stab mark through it, which I suppose means the previous owner would disagree with my recommendation. But hey, I enjoyed it, and I don't care about the opinion of someone who would mistreat a book so.

Thompson's books are strange. They combine fantasy and reality, contain exaggerated personalities, and are full of teen wish-fulfillment. But even the his light comedies contain darker passages - like getting out of a potential rape - that keep the silliness anchored. To me, his books are compelling because of a juxtaposition of sophistication and trashiness. There's a fearlessness to his writing that I respect. If you want to read something different, try Julian F. Thompson.


  1. These books look great - but even better are the ones described in the Answers article. Thanks for that link! He sounds amazing, both as a writer and as person. I definitely want to check some of his books out.

  2. I hadn't heard of this author before...thanks for bringing him to my attention.

  3. I love knowing authors and novels that other people never heard of. <3

  4. There is now a Wikipedia page for
    The Grounding of Group 6.


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